Historically, the Buffalo Bills haven’t been a team that uses the tight end as a receiving weapon. Even with a famous, explosive offense named for their tight end in the early-nineties, the team still relied on wide receivers and running backs to compile gaudy numbers. Of course, if that’s where the talent is on the roster, then it makes sense — and it most certainly made sense to throw to Hall of Fame players like Andre Reed, James Lofton, and Thurman Thomas — but even as the league has changed, the Bills have been late in integrating the tight end into the offense consistently.
That appears close to changing this year, as the Bills invested a first-round pick in the position for the first time since 1983, back when the team took Notre Dame tight end Tony Hunter two spots ahead of Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly. While that selection didn’t seem to usher in any sort of sea change philosophically, this year’s first-round choice could be a key to a new era for the offense.
We aren’t going to talk about that first-round pick today, though. Instead, in today’s installment of “90 players in 90 days,” we’ll discuss a gifted athlete at the position who spent last season on the team’s practice squad — a player who will be fighting for either a spot as the third tight end or as a member of the practice squad once again.
Name: Zach Davidson
Height/Weight: 6’7”, 251 pounds
Age: 24 (25 on 7/15/2023)
College: Central Missouri
Acquired: Signed to Buffalo’s practice squad on 9/1/2022
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Davidson signed a reserve/futures contract on January 23 at the conclusion of Buffalo’s season. That two-year deal is worth a total of $1.665 million, of which just $9,000 is guaranteed. If he makes the roster in 2023, Davidson carries a cap hit of $754,500.
2022 Recap: Davidson spent the offseason and preseason with the Vikings. He played in three preseason games, starting two. In those contests, he was targeted 11 times, hauling in six passes for 65 yards. The Vikings released him on August 30, and he signed with Buffalo two days later. He remained on the Bills’ practice squad for the entire season. He was not promoted to the active roster once, so he has yet to make his official regular-season NFL debut.
Positional outlook: Davidson is one of five tight ends vying for a roster spot, joining returning players Dawson Knox and Quintin Morris, first-round draft choice Dalton Kincaid, and undrafted rookie signee Joel Wilson in the tight end room.
2023 Offseason: Davidson is healthy and he has participated in offseason activities to date.
2023 Season outlook: What Davidson lacks in production, he makes up for in intrigue, as he presents a tall, athletic target who has the raw tools to develop into at least a good situational target. In a positional group that composes two roster locks in Knox and Kincaid, however, that means Davidson would need to beat out someone with more experience, like Morris, in order to make the roster. I don’t think that’s going to happen, although I do think he’d be a great player to keep on the practice squad as a developmental “F” tight end. Fun fact about Davidson, too: he began his college career as a punter, and he had 48 of his 137 career punts placed inside the 20 over his career. He remained the punter at Central Missouri even as he was dominating on offense during his junior year — he caught 40 passes for 894 yards and 15 touchdowns, and he also punted 48 times, averaging 40.3 yards per punt with 19 punted inside the 20 and 9 punted 50 yards or more. He’s a great athlete, and while he may not make the team this year, he may still develop into a usable offensive weapon.